Faces Behind the Dots – Colorado Trail Race 2022

The Colorado Trail Race has a long history of strong women lining up to traverse the 520-ish miles between Denver and Durango in a solo self-supported fashion. No crew, no aid stations, no hours when the clock stops for a rest. It’s just a person, their bike, and the trail. The CTR has hosted some of the most recognizable names in women’s bikepacking over the years, including Trish Stevenson, Cat Morrison, Alice Drobna, Eliza Sampey, Ashley Carelock, Alexandera Houchin, and many more. As someone who lined up for the event twice, both in 2010 and 2011, I feel so honored to be part of this collection of women who’ve taken on the trail.

This year’s racers come from a variety of backgrounds. I didn’t really know the type of responses I’d get when I sent out some questions asking about everything from how they got into bikepacking to their favorite trail snack — this is my first time doing this after all. But I was amazed by the various experiences that got these women into riding bikes and the stories that led them to sign up for the CTR. The path to bikepacking isn’t straightforward for anyone, and it seems like the hurdles to get into the sport are even greater for women. The women who are lining up for this year’s CTR didn’t just get there by accident.

I absolutely loved Emma Millar’s response to Anything else you want to say?

“I signed up to race the CTR, in large part, because I was annoyed about the lack of women in ultra-racing. Women’s ultra-racing has some extremely talented, stand-out athletes, but lacks the depth of field that will push the ladies up front and the entire group to be better. There’s no reason that women’s ultra records shouldn’t be on par with the men’s.

So, this is me trying to convince other women to do some ultra racing! If, like me, you spend a lot of time complaining to your friends about how lame the male-to-female ratio is and how there is literally no reason that the women’s records in endurance events shouldn’t be the same or better than the men’s, come do it!”

I no longer race, but I believe that shining a light on the women currently leading the charge is important, and this is my contribution to helping break down the barriers that have kept women’s participation in this sport low for so many years.

I present the Women of the 2022 Colorado Trail Race. May you all experience tailwinds, beautiful vistas, friendship, and the best snacks in your bike bags.

-Eszter


Alexandera Houchin

Hometown: I live in my F150 with my partner and we split our time between northern Minnesota and Arizona.

Bike: Chumba Sendero

CTR experience: Three Grand Departs, one ITT

Alexandera and her Chumba Sendero Ti

What’s your bikepacking background?

I started racing in 2017 with the Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire Race and have since completed the Tour Divide, Arizona Trail and many more races. I’ve toured across the country S-N and E-W a couple times. I have spent many summers of my adult life wandering around this country on a bike.

I have completed the CTR in three grand departs, and finished one ITT. Two eastbound and two westbound completions, and 6:01 was my fastest finish with the rest of the finishes in less than 7 days. I’ve toured the CT a good deal as well. It’s the best trail.

Was there a specific thing that got you into riding bikes?

It was kind of an accident. I suppose what keeps me into bikes is the pathway that bicycles provide that lead me to a constant dissolution of my ego and the family and friends I’ve found through riding bikes. Yeah, maybe it’s the friends and family I’ve found, and the community surrounding these long, hard bike rides.

What drew you to bikepacking? How about the CTR specifically?

I wanted to go to challenging places that tested my body and mind. I found the CTR after finishing a 650-mile ride of the Arizona Trail. I fell in love with the Arizona Trail first, and wondered what the AZT’s complete opposite looked like. Turns out that the CT has so much incredible and rideable trail, I became absolutely obsessed with coming back.

What are you most looking forward to out on route? Are you dreading anything?

I’m planning to yo-yo. I’ve tried to yo-yo twice now and quit both times for various reasons– no reason good enough though. I’m excited for the way back. I was invited by a friend to try something a little different for my way back– so I’m most excited to come back to Denver– hopefully faster than Andrew Strempke’s 13-day finish last year! I’m not dreading anything– I wait all year for this race!!!

What’s your biggest fear?

My biggest fear– hmmm. I don’t think I am fearing anything around this race– I’m totally prepared to accept whatever lessons I have to learn on this traverse across Colorado.

Favorite bikepacking snack? Is there anything you won’t eat?

I despise gels. Yuck. Gross. No way. My favorite racing foods are meat and cheese and chips.

What’s your first memory of riding a bike? When did you discover riding long distances?

I was super into bike touring. I’d been touring solo around the country and found great joy in the relationships I built and the lengths my legs could pedal. I remember riding a bike as a kid, but the kid me rode bikes for such different reasons.

Why are bikes awesome? Why is bikepacking awesome?

Bikes have really been this amazing tool for me to explore the deepest parts of my mind and find love for a body I always hated.

Scale of 1 to 10, how scared are you of lightning?

Easy to say not scared right now, but it’s fucking scary when you’re out there. Lighting is terrifying!


Ana Jager

Hometown: Anchorage, AK

Bike: Pivot Mach 4 SL

CTR experience: Rookie

Ana Jager
Ana Jager and her borrowed Pivot Mach 4 SL (Thanks Dusty!)

What’s your bikepacking background?

Two friends and I did a west-coast bike tour as a high school graduation trip. That was probably my first real introduction to bike travel! Biking in Baja along the Baja Divide route a couple times since then have been highlight trips for me. I’ve loved bikepacking and racing around Alaska. I raced the Tour Divide this past June. That route and experience has opened my eyes to how challenging and entertaining long bike stuff is! I ended up being the first woman to finish the Tour Divide this past year– I feel proud of that and I am eager to keep practicing and learning how to do these races.

Was there a specific thing that got you into riding bikes?

My family got me into the bike game for sure. I learned to mountain bike following my dad around on trails near our house and I spent time riding with my mom growing up— biking next to her running or behind her on a tandem. My younger brother is fast at everything— it’s always been entertaining to try and keep up with him.

What drew you to bikepacking? How about the CTR specifically?

I like being able to cover ground just by the power of my legs. That keeps drawing me to bikepacking. CTR is extra intriguing because of the terrain! I am excited to spend a lot of time in the mountains and to ride and hike-a-bike long sections of single track trail.

What are you most looking forward to out on route? Are you dreading anything?

Wide open views and high up single track!! I have hardly spent any time in Colorado and am excited to get to see a chunk of this place. I also feel plenty nervous for several things— jumping up to high altitude, hot temperatures, and thunder and lightning storms will be learning experiences for me.

What’s your biggest fear?

The dark is high on my list of fears! I’ve been working on this fear recently. Still spooky, but becoming less so. Bike lights and making sure I’m good and sleepy at bedtime while solo camping make the dark less daunting.

Favorite bikepacking snack? Is there anything you won’t eat?

Gummy candies and Honey BBQ Fritos are classic go-to options for me. I don’t eat meat, but I am big on the chocolate (or straight up milk) when I’m bikepacking.

Why are bikes awesome? Why is bikepacking awesome?

I think bikes are the coolest way to get around and cover ground, close to home or far! You can efficiently move under your own power and I love that feeling. The vulnerability of covering ground by bike is really appealing to me and lets me learn about myself. My relationship to my body feels best in tune and healthy when I’m biking. I also think that bike riding is one of the best ways to share experiences and places with friends.


Arly Landry

Hometown: Gunnison, CO

Bike: Custom Gooddday Ti Bluebird

CTR experience: Rookie

Arly Landry
Arly Landry and her custom Gooddday Ti Bluebird

What’s your bikepacking background?

I’ve never done a bikepacking race before. I’ve done the Kokopelli Trail, The Coconino 250, 75% of the Colorado Trail, loops all over Southern Utah, and loops all over Gunnison County. I have a gallery of many of my bike-camping escapades here: https://www.gooddaycuriosity.com/inspiration

Was there a specific thing that got you into riding bikes?

I mostly started riding bikes because I preferred it over driving cars to get places. In high school, I started mountain biking and raced XC for a short while. Even though I didn’t have a lot of innate ability as a XC racer, it was still super empowering.

What drew you to bikepacking? How about the CTR specifically?

It wasn’t until after college that I did my first bike tour. My boyfriend and I spent three months biking all over Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado with all of our rock climbing gear.

Bike touring was literally the coolest thing ever– except for the cars! The following spring we got outfitted for bikepacking and did the Kokopelli trail, and I’ve only done a couple gravel/road tours since.

My boyfriend has done the CTR three times and I’m ready to get in on the action! I did Slumgullion Pass to Durango last year solo and loved it! There is a group of us coming from Gunnison for the grand depart and I just love all the comradery.

What are you most looking forward to out on route? Are you dreading anything?

I’m looking forward to being delirious in beautiful places! I’m both dreading and looking forward to the solitude.

What’s your biggest fear?

Lions, bears, and hostile persons.

Favorite bikepacking snack?

Mushroom Jerky

What’s your first memory of riding a bike?

When I was four years old, riding my bike with silver tassels and training wheels.

Why are bikes awesome? Why is bikepacking awesome?

Bikes are awesome because they are human powered, elegant, personal, and efficient. Bikepacking is awesome because you can get to some really cool remote places with far less resources and supplies than if you walked there. I also like how bikepacking is eco-tourism. Also… the downhill!

Scale of 1 to 10, how scared are you of lightning?

4

Have I missed anything that you’d want people to know about you?

I make all of my own bike bags:) #curiositybikebags


Eliza (Liz) Sampey

Hometown: Van Life

Bike: 2022 Revel Rascal

CTR experience: Fourth attempt. The closest I’ve gotten was having to pull out 22 miles from the finish in 2018 after my rear hub detonated.

Liz Sampey
Liz Sampey and her Revel Rascal

What’s your bikepacking background?

I started in 2015 when I lived in Guatemala; at first I just tied everything to my bike with baling wire and threw the rest in a backpack. Eventually I drew patterns and had some bike bags made by a local sastrería. Since then I’ve bikepacked in Peru, Mexico, Canada, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Scotland, and various places in the US. I’ve done 10 ultra bikepacking races, my first being the CTR in 2018.

Was there a specific thing that got you into riding bikes?

I grew up in the woods of Minnesota, where there were trails everywhere. I had a bike, as most farm kids did, and I could go faster and explore farther on the trails with the bike than I could walking. This was my early introduction to “mountain biking” and I rode throughout childhood, though I had no idea it was an actual sport until college.

What drew you to bikepacking? How about the CTR specifically?

I love traversing big backcountry landscapes for days or weeks on end under my own power and had done it on foot and skis for over 20 years. I’d also been mountain biking for over 20 years and racing bikes for over a decade, but I didn’t bikepack until 2015. I’m not sure why it took me so long. I was drawn to the CTR in 2018 because I’d lived in Colorado for most of my adult life, as a mountain biker, and it seemed like a good idea.

What are you most looking forward to out on route? Are you dreading anything?

I’m looking forward to watching the ecosystems change as I travel through them, and watching how the landscape, plants and animals change at all hours of the day and night. It’s the most special thing about these long-distance races to me. I’m dreading the inevitable torrential downpours and lightning storms above treeline: I don’t have a massive fear of storms, but it’s still wet, cold and unnerving up there with nowhere to hide, and I know it’ll happen at some point.

What’s your biggest fear?

Bees/wasps/hornets. I’m highly allergic. I’ll take storms over those any day.

Favorite bikepacking snack? Is there anything you won’t eat?

I’m really into sandwiches, and salads I can eat from a ziploc bag. Salami and cheese. Hard-boiled eggs, slices of pizza, tamales, jerky. And burritos, always burritos. I won’t eat gels, or most manufactured energy food unless I’m really desperate. I try hard to not let that happen.


Emma Millar

Hometown: Durango, CO

Bike: Revel Rascal named Rapscallion

CTR experience: Rookie, but solo toured CT in 2020 in 13 days, deemed hardest ride she’s ever done

Emma Millar
Emma Millar and her Revel Rascal named Rapscallion. Photo: Jennaye Derge

What’s your bikepacking background?

My parents are both cyclists and they tried bikepacking well before I did. My mom was so convinced that I’d like it that she found me a Surly Ogre on Craigslist, set up a meeting with the seller, then told me to go buy the bike. I did, and since then, I’ve spent all my time bikepacking on weekends and vacations, including a trip through Morocco, Spain, and Portugal for my honeymoon. My husband and I convinced all our friends to be bikepackers and now we have a fantastic group of friends, super creatively called “Bike Team”, that we spend a lot of time riding bikes with. Last fall, I did my first ultra race on the AZTR300 and had a truly fantastic experience. I figured there was a 50/50 chance I’d hate it, but the entire experience was so fun that I’m back for the CTR! I’m excited to take everything that I learned last year and apply it to the Colorado Trail Race.

Was there a specific thing that got you into riding bikes?

I started mountain biking as a kid, since my parents rode and it was just what we did on weekends. I moved to Durango and attended Fort Lewis College because I wanted to be a bike racer. I was a decent downhill racer (kinda the opposite of endurance racing- like ultra-short distance), but I got super burned out on racing and quit to be a rock climbing bum. I’ve been getting back into biking and found myself getting pretty stoked on long rides and bikepacking, so I thought I’d give racing a try again (since it went so well the first time. Maybe I’ll end up a climber again).

What drew you to bikepacking? How about the CTR specifically?

Living in Durango means that the CT is just right there! I think these long-distance trails are so cool. I remember hiking on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail as a kid and being so blown away that the trail I was standing on connected the entire west coast- that I could take one trail all the way from Mexico to Canada! The CT doesn’t have that same epic scale, but it’s still pretty cool to ride all the way from Denver back to my house.

What are you most looking forward to out on route? Are you dreading anything?

I’m feeling pretty confident- having toured the route is definitely helpful. I’m kind of dreading pretty much every Wilderness detour because I’m not much of a road rider- I just want to stop and look at the flowers, then I want to eat a snack, then I have to pee, then I want to take a nap… I’m hoping lots of snacks and Lizzo’s new album will keep me moving forward.

Favorite bikepacking snack? Is there anything you won’t eat?

I’m all about the snacks. Lots of gummy bears, although I can’t stand sour gummy worms. I also refuse to eat anything with dates- gross.

What’s your first memory of riding a bike? When did you discover riding long distances?

My first memory of riding bikes was practicing standing up on the downhills on a little tiny hill in our backyard. My parents were sitting on the deck watching me ride circles around the house. In my memory, they were trying to have a relaxing afternoon drinking martinis on the deck and I was being very annoying, but I’m sure they were cheering me on.

Emma Millar
Emma Millar and her Revel Rascal (aka Rapscallion). Photo: Jennaye Derge

Some other thoughts

I signed up to race the CTR, in large part, because I was annoyed about the lack of women in ultra-racing. Women’s ultra-racing has some extremely talented, stand-out athletes, but lacks the depth of field that will push the ladies up front and the entire group to be better. There’s no reason that women’s ultra records shouldn’t be on par with the men’s. Unfortunately, I’m not the woman for the job (as in, I have a full time job that is not bike racing), but if I can push myself and the women around me to try harder, then it’s my hope that I can contribute (at least a little bit) to the entire field getting faster.

So, this is me trying to convince other women to do some ultra racing! If, like me, you spend a lot of time complaining to your friends about how lame the male-to-female ratio is and how there is literally no reason that the women’s records in endurance events shouldn’t be the same or better than the men’s, come do it! I may not win (I won’t) but at least I’m not at home complaining. And my friends and family appreciate that.


Julie Kanagy

Hometown: Near Santa Cruz, CA

Bike: Specialized Epic Evo

CTR experience: Rookie

Julie Kanagy
Julie Kanagy on her Specialized Epic Evo

What’s your bikepacking background?

I did my first bikepacking race in 2018, the Stagecoach 400, and made a million mistakes! I really prefer the more mountain bike-oriented routes. The Bones to Blue in Lake Tahoe is amazing, and there’s some wild steep stuff in Santa Barbara on the Tour de Los Padres, which I’ve done twice. I did a partial tour of the Oregon Timber Trail in 2019, which I’d love to complete, but every year now there is a massive fire that burns another part of it, which is heartbreaking.

What drew you to bikepacking? How about the CTR specifically?

I love backpacking and mountain biking, and when I found out you could do both, it had to be done!

What are you most looking forward to out on route? Are you dreading anything?

I am looking forward to experiencing 527 or so brand-new-to-me miles of mountains and forests, particularly the last bit from Silverton to Durango. There have to be some fun downhills in there too.

What’s your biggest fear?

I’m terrified of lightning! Also, I am used to making a plan and having concrete goals each day, but unfamiliarity with the terrain and the weather will throw a wrench in things. Making decisions on the fly while in caloric deficit, sleep deprived, and hypoxic will be interesting.

Favorite bikepacking snack? Is there anything you won’t eat?

Potato chips! I won’t eat animals.

When did you discover riding long distances?

Basically when we moved to California from the Washington, DC area. There is so much land to explore out here compared to the east coast. I remember when a 25 mile 5000-foot elevation gain mountain bike ride was a gigantic epic.

Why are bikes awesome? Why is bikepacking awesome?

Through bikes I’ve met people who are like family to me. Whenever I meet another mountain biker, especially a bikepacker, it’s an instant connection. Bikepacking is a great way to explore nature and get to know it a little better, and to know yourself a bit better.

Scale of 1 to 10, how scared are you of lightning?

11!


Karin Pocock

Hometown: Blue River, CO/Vancouver, BC

Bike: Santa Cruz Carbon Chameleon with as many after-market parts as I can figure out how to afford

CTR experience: Raced in 2021

Karin Pocock
Karin Pocock on her Santa Cruz Chameleon

How did you get into riding bikes and bikepacking?

I grew up in the 80s in a small fishing town on an island of silt on the Fraser River delta (read dead flat and below sea level). The mountains were a backdrop, but not close enough to get to at that time. My mom is European and hated driving so biking in any form was encouraged. I was less into the gravel cycling that my parents enjoyed and totally enamored with the pump tracks and dirt jump parks that were starting to informally spring up. Then in my teens I got introduced to the “north shore” and being able to ride features in the forest. This was on a cheap, fully rigid bike that I would keep taco-ing rims on, but I was still hooked.

Then I left biking for a time and focused more on climbing and being a rock-climbing and mountaineering guide, becoming certified and really committing to my vocation. Years of climbing would be interspersed with biking. I lived in Cumberland, BC, for several years and spent a ton of time enjoying the forested single track on a 26-inch hardtail as a break from climbing- and skiing-based work. It really wasn’t until early 2018 when a surgeon would tell me that I might never walk correctly again and should consider different less-active career options that mountain biking became a huge part of my life.

Initially, my bike was my wheelchair since I had severe walking restrictions to help heal the bones in my feet that had been breaking under load over and over again due to a loss of cartilage. Then mountain biking became a way to still do overnight trips because at that time I was unsure I would ever carry a loaded backpack again. Bikepacking gave me the mobility and access I was told I would have to give up, and now it is giving me longevity in overnight mountain travel in a way I could never have expected or hoped for.

Karen Pocock
Karin Pocock’s Santa Cruz Carbon Chameleon

What are you most looking forward to out on route? Are you dreading anything?

I’m most looking forward to being in the alpine. Crossing the Ten Mile Range is always beautiful and inspiring, even though it’s a few miles from where I live and I spend many days up there. All of the terrain from Spring Creek Pass to Stoney Pass is gorgeous and never leaves my mind as an example of what an amazing trail and recreation resource the CT is. I also have a fondness for Sargent’s Mesa, despite it often being a section of the trail that is disliked.

I’m dreading the wilderness ride-arounds in this direction. Pedaling uphill on both pavement and gravel is not my forte.

What’s your biggest fear?

Sketchy people in pickup trucks on dirt road ride-arounds (as a solo female traveler), lightning

Favorite bikepacking snack? Is there anything you won’t eat?

On the bike: Avocado, provolone, tomato, macadamia nut wrap – homemade and smushed by some time in a bike bag.

At a store: pint of Talenti ice cream, ideally pistachio, though the caramel cookie crunch makes a pretty good second option.

My friend Katie always says; “my body is a temple,” about how I eat. I won’t eat junk, it doesn’t matter how hard I’m working. This is a limiting factor at gas stations and remote resupplies. I’ve been sick enough in my life to know that clean water and clean food make a difference even when we are pushing hard.

What’s your first memory of riding a bike?

I remember a very awkward tricycle, I was definitely a kiddo before Striders were a thing. I remember my training wheels on my first bike and when they came off, and I have fond memories of being in kids parades on bikes with streamers and all sorts of bling for the bike. Mostly I remember a feeling spread between all these memories of this freedom and motion that being on a bike gave me.

When did you discover riding long distances?

Long distances came naturally as an extension of my personality. I’ve always gravitated towards huge efforts in the mountains. My spouse likes to say I “bite off more than I can chew;” which may be true, but I enjoy seeing my limits and pushing them further. I guess sometime in the early 2000s, when I was living on Vancouver Island, I first started to ride longer hours, and then in Crested Butte I finally had the terrain to offer an outlet to my desire to ride long distances.

Why are bikes awesome? Why is bikepacking awesome?

Bikes are freedom and they’re legs. Whether you have a mild injury or a severe loss of use, bikes can create an ability to move through terrain again in a way that might be gone otherwise. Being on a bike took away the boundaries that injury gave me. I feel this constant and overwhelming gratitude for that freedom of movement. Bikepacking to me is the ability to head out your door and never know where you’ll end up.

Scale of 1 to 10, how scared are you of lightning?

Lightning is a solid 9 for me and takes a fair bit of anticipation and planning to avoid.

Have I missed anything that you’d want people to know about you?

Participating in this sport is remarkably challenging for someone who makes their living as a guide. The money really isn’t there to pay for the gear and the timing completely overlaps with guiding season. I am constantly aware that I am picking bikepacking because I love it, not because it fits easily into my life. I think this makes me appreciate it more.

On a final note, this year’s race taper and final prep has been completing turned on end and I have been spending the time being a home-care aid after my significant other’s recent spinal surgery. This was not how I expected this time to go, but it’s what is happening and I’m rolling with it. I look forward to being out on the trail.


Lauren Brownlee

Hometown: I live in my truck camper and recently started calling Boise home.

CTR experience: Rookie

Lauren Brownlee
Lauren Brownlee

What’s your bikepacking background?

I started a year ago and got hooked after racing the Divide and a few shorter bikepacking races.

What drew you to bikepacking? How about the CTR specifically?

I love covering great distances and sleeping in the dirt. Each of the bikepacking races I have done have been subsequently more and more technical and I finally got a little bit of suspension–enough for me to feel like I can pose as a mountain biker and tackle this big challenge. I love this state and the places I’ve been here, so it’s exciting to get to string together a bunch of beautiful places on one trail.

Favorite bikepacking snack?

I eat everything, including many dairy items. Need calories.


Mary Ehlers

Hometown: Saint Paul, MN

Bike: Ti Salsa Timberjack

CTR experience: Rookie

Mary Ehlers
Mary Ehlers and her Ti Salsa Timberjack

What’s your bikepacking background?

I come from a road-riding, touring background. When our kids were little, we took them on our first big bike trip on a section of the California coast where I discovered climbing was hard outside Minnesota. I took some time off cycling after than and started running and did some ultra marathons as well as some winter races.

I got back into cycling when it became my form of transportation. Bike commuting quickly became an obsession. I would ride to work three to four days a week no matter the weather. I love having a destination, whether it be work, ice cream, groceries or coffee. Bike commuting helped me love my bike for more than just exercise.

In 2018, I took my first bikepacking trip where I rode the Florida coast from Jacksonville to the Keys. I was still scared of climbing so we settled on this route. Flat. Within the next few years, I did a local race in Minnesota, the North Star Bicycle Race, a 630-mile out-and-back, and then took a couple trips to New Mexico to do some gravel riding. That is when I decided the long days on roads weren’t for me anymore. After my husband finished the Tour Divide, I recall thinking it was something I could never do as I just don’t climb. But after spending 2020 at home with my family and talking about the Tour Divide for two years with him, I changed my mind. I would take on my fear of climbing, so in the summer of 2021, I rode The Great Divide Classic.

What drew you to bikepacking? How about the CTR specifically?

I love the idea that whether you’re out for a long weekend or you’re racing, you set the pace. In bikepacking, I can do the miles in however long I want. I can keep up with the people around me by sacrificing sleep and riding longer days. I also love to make gear for bikes, and it’s a low-key motivator to get out ride, test gear, and enjoy! So many things draw me to the CTR, the amazing views, a relatively shorter route, the singletrack, and probably the least popular for many, but pushing my bike.

What are you most looking forward to out on route? Are you dreading anything?

I am most looking forward to starry nights. Hopefully it’s clear enough at least a couple of the night for stars. It’s one of my favorite things that you can’t get in the city.

What’s your biggest fear?

My biggest fear bikepacking is people, I listen to way too many crime podcasts! Also, rain.

Favorite bikepacking snack? Is there anything you won’t eat?

My favorite bikepacking snacks are Rice Crispy Treats and Peach Rings. Rice Crispy Treats are great anytime. Peach Rings are my go-to when I get tired. I ride long days and sometimes I need that pick-me-up when I am getting tired but want to go another couple hours.


Katya Rakhmatulina

Hometown: Oakland, CA

Bike: Niner Rip 9 RDO

CTR experience: Rookie

Katya Rakhmatulina
Katya Rakhmatulina and her Niner Rip 9 RDO

What’s your bikepacking background?

I attempted the AZTR 800 last year but had to stop after the 300 because of an incredibly uncomfortable seat and grips. More recently I raced the Bones to Blue route that started and ended in Truckee, CA. That route was so fun and went way better than the AZT for me!

Was there a specific thing that got you into riding bikes?

I got into riding bikes about eight years ago when I broke my leg; I hadn’t biked all that much before and considered myself more of a runner. To get around, I borrowed my friend’s $100 “mountain bike” for the summer. The bike did not fit me at all, it squeaked and creaked. One day I biked 60 miles roundtrip to go camping, fitting everything into a hiking pack on my back. Looking back, the ride was not at all comfortable, but I was ecstatic! Even when my leg was not broken, I would not have been able to get that far on foot, and there I was, unable to walk properly, yet got far enough away that it felt like freedom. I’ve been hooked on biking ever since. That same summer I bought a gravel bicycle and haven’t stopped biking since. A year later, I moved from Michigan to California, carrying all my possessions on a bicycle. About three years ago, I got more interested in mountain bikes and picked up off-road bikepacking.

Bikes continue giving me freedom and empowerment, and that’s why they are awesome.

What are you most looking forward to out on route? Are you dreading anything?

For the CTR, I am the most excited about breathtaking (pun intended) views, singletrack downhills, and the abundance of water sources. I am also excited about some newly discovered bikepacking snacks; my favorite new snack is a squeeze tube of guacamole and Honey BBQ Fritos. Salt + fat = yum! Unfortunately, after two days of eating a lot of processed food, I get mouth sores which make eating less appealing. For the CTR, I am trying to supplement my food with a high-calorie liquid diet. Hopefully this will prevent bonking and will keep me strong.


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